The Glasgow Rocks cracked under the pressure of the Plymouth Raiders Sunday, as the city side bludgeoned their way into the BBL win column for the second straight time at home, winning 87-83.
Head coach Paul James was happy his side could continue their dominance over home court, saying:
“It feels great to get the win, we’re trying to make this court a tough place to come and win, and so far, we’re 100% with two wins from two, so it’s a great feeling.”
Things weren’t all plain sailing though, a tricky start to the game put the Raiders behind quickly, but a time-out called by James righted the ship. When asked about what was said to snap his players back, he said:
“We just had to relax and play our game, we scouted them really well so there were no surprises with them when they came out.
“In the first quarter we really didn’t do any of the stuff we worked on, but we started to relax and once we sat down on the defensive end, I thought we did a great job for the rest of the game.
“We’ve got a talented group here that are a bit inexperienced, but we’ve got players like Josh Wilcher and Donte, so there was no need to panic as they’re really carrying the team for us, so I’m really pleased with the way we reacted.”
Donte Nicholas had a strong game, leading the side in almost all categories, but the American was quick to stay humble and praise his team mates, he said:
“I mean it’s okay but I’m a team player so if everybody plays well, it feels good, especially if I can be a part of that and get some wins, especially on the road.
“I think the offence is getting used to working with each other, finding our guys in tough spots, so we were able to attack because all of us were playing aggressive.
“I think we’ve grown as a team literally minute by minute, we’ve got a young team but we’re getting used to it and making adjustments and it’s good to see we’re putting them in the game.
“I think all of the games have been the same to me, there’s just been one point where we’ve either won plays or lost them, and I said in the huddle at the end ‘this is where we tank off’, but we made some plays and came away with the win.”
Both sides started off a little imprecise with the first six shots of the game going wide until a foul took the Rocks to an early two point lead.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to turn things on their head though, as the side replied with hoops of their own to level the score up.
The Rocks attempted to take charge of the first quarter in a blistering two minute period which saw seemingly every shot find its home. Eight points were quickly added, and the Raiders had little response, calling a timeout to rebuild.
The Raiders showed no intention of losing in the opening 10 minutes though, and began to tighten their belt and go for shots inside the arc rather than for glory with three’s. Together with a couple of drawn penalties, seven points swung the game back into the grasp of the Raiders who recaptured the lead.
Two long ranged shots from Josh Wilcher punched another six points in for the Raiders just seconds before the first period ended, leaving the Raiders with a surprising four-point lead.
The Rocks continued to look washed up to begin the second period, lagging behind their hosts in every sector of the game. The Raiders continued to pull down any loose rebounds at both ends, shut attacks down and forced rushed play as the shot clock loomed large over the lost visitors.
Sporadic three pointers were all that kept the Rocks from having a large-scale score to overcome themselves, and slowly but surely the extras added up causing the lead to once again change.
Three late defensive fouls gifted the Rocks the chance to re-enter the game, and the score was fittingly level at the half at 40.
Nicholas had himself a standout 20 minutes, leading the squad with 14 points, an impressive five drawn fouls, eight rebounds and three assists.
Bouna Ndiaye provided the power for the visitors with 16 points of his own, but with three fouls to his name, he faced the prospect of playing a more reserved second half to extend his court time.
Both sides came out swinging to begin the second half, trading blow for blow, but it was the Rocks who crumbled first, surrendering an eight point lead.
As feared, the Rocks quickly lost Ndiaye to his fourth foul, forcing head coach Darryl Wood to place his scoring leader on the bench to preserve a chance at winning the game late.
Centre Zak Wells exited the game in frustration after being hit with a unsportsmanlike technical foul, leaving a big presence that needed to be filled under the hoop.
Still, Raiders began to step up across the court, determined to hold the close lead. Wilcher played far larger than 5-10 frame appeared, making highlight reel blocks on defence, whilst Joonas Jarvelainen played some nice attacking ball, dunking over his defender at the other end.
As the fourth quarter rolled around, the game still hadn’t secured a clear winner and both sides looked capable and hungry for the win.
With tired legs beginning to creep in for the over played Rocks, the sides bench was used to prop up the score board, but with the starting five on for the Raiders, the score began to pull away in the hosts favour.
Six points adrift, and without anyone proving themselves on the Rocks side, Ndiaye was subbed back in to try and continue his hot hand, but the Raiders were all over his number eight jersey.
Playing desperately, Greg Pryor fouled out for the Rocks, an opportunity the Raiders hammered home. The Rocks, on the other hand, struggled the entire afternoon from the line missing out on six points, the Raiders though netted an impressive 17 from 21 visits.
The Rocks had one last burst of energy to ramp up the tension around the court, dragging themselves one last time toward the lead. With 30 seconds remaining, the score was back at four points, but playing the foul game to capture possession, the Raiders sunk timely free throws to close out their second win of the season.
James couldn’t help but look forward to the next home challenge, as the Raiders look to play host to the high-flying Newcastle Eagles. He said:
“Newcastle’s a very tough team, over many years I’ve battled with them no matter what team I’ve been with so it’s going to be a fantastic game, hopefully we’ll have a full crowd here on the night.”
Words by Rob Tunley